If the thought of bombing in front of a bunch of friends (or perfect strangers) takes the fun out of the occasion, you need to follow the Boy Scouts' motto: Be prepared.
Here are a few tips to help you formulate a toast that everyone in attendance will remember... for all the right reasons.
1. Know your audience. At a bachelor party, anything goes. But if you're at a wedding reception or high school reunion, the diversity of the audience dictates that your remarks be G-rated... or PG at worst.
Avoid "colorful" language, and don't delve into topics such as previous marriages.
Instead, focus on an anecdote that everyone in attendance will enjoy hearing, such as a good deed that the honoree performed as a child. You're looking for a story that will generate a reaction of, "Aww..."
2. Steal. Nobody expects you to come up with a completely original thought, so begin your speech with a quotation. A familiar one is best, but if you run across something obscure that really fits the person and the occasion, use it.
Once you've selected a quote, try it out on a few friends. If you are greeted by blank stares, it's probably best to dump that quote and look for another one.
3. Practice, practice, practice. Once you've finished writing your remarks, commit them to memory. Take a little time each day to run the words through your mind.
On the day of the special occasion, jot down just a few key points of your remarks on a note card. Reading the speech creates the possibility of fumbling and sounds less genuine.
That said, do print out a copy of your entire speech and hand it to the honoree when you're done. That way, if you do mess up, at least he'll know what you meant to say.
4. Relax. Everyone else making a toast will be nervous, too. And if you're traveling in the right circles, all in attendance already will have had a few sips of wine before it's your turn to speak. Wine forgives many sins.